“How To Survive A Plague” appears to be the little documentary that could, with no real connection to any awards in the past, yet a spot in the final five competing for Best Documentary Feature.

Comparable to “The Invisible War” in that it currently has a 100% rating on the movie reviews site Rotten Tomatoes, what the film doesn’t have is the accolades tied to it like “The Invisible War” does, which could hurt its chances of winning.

That aside, “How To Survive A Plague” is a strong documentary in its own right. Activism documentaries can often be repetitive and uninspiring, but France finds the perfect blend of information, entertainment, and point of view. Personally, I feel this is the better documentary placed against “The Invisible War”, but with all the awards the latter has received, I’m more inclined to see that winning the award.


Without a doubt one of the best activism documentaries I have ever seen, “How to Survive a Plague” wholly engages while still educating, built off of archival footage and news programs from the time of the major AIDS outbreak in the ’80s through the battle to save those infected against a hostile, somewhat homophobic government and media, all the way to the effective treatments discovered in the mid-90s. What sets this apart from previous documentaries about large groups of people standing up to the government are the characters, who leave themselves wide open for the world to see in this film, and in doing so, become fully realized and deep, emotional people, with the basic need for survival driving their motivations. Peter Staley, who was one of the major activists for the ACT UP group, was the most enjoyable, with his deadpan reactions during news interviews and unique way with words, especially in public speeches. AIDS in the ’80s isn’t a subject that comes up very often, so to get such a deep look at the epidemic is something new and the harrowing tales, despite their obvious, weighted stance on political issues, are some of the best in recent history.

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// Produced by Dan Cogan // Directed by David France //

// Dated Viewed: Monday, January 14th, 2013 // NETFLIX //  29 films – 42 days //


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